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Lecture | Research Seminar

A Paragenealogy of Computational Rationality

  • Rodrigo Ochigame
Wednesday 14 September 2022
Pieter de la Court

*** Change of date ***

Due to the public transport strikes on the original date (9 september) this Research Seminar is postponed to Wednesday 14 September from 15.15 -17.00 hours.


This seminar is open and free for all, but please register via the button below.

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What does it mean to be “rational”? Since the Cold War, the concept of rationality has become increasingly associated with certain formal models of logic and computation. In the age of ubiquitous digital computing and artificial intelligence, such models have reconfigured state bureaucracies, financial markets, and media infrastructures.

This talk offers a critical examination of computational rationality, challenging the supposed universality of the formal models that have come to define it. Instead of tracing the emergence of computational rationality through a conventional Foucauldian genealogy, I propose a “paragenealogical” method for doing so. Rather than following the central actors who appear to have originated the currently predominant models of rationality, a paragenealogy focuses on peripheral actors who have imagined and developed unorthodox models that may have been ignored, suppressed, or marginalized.

I discuss four case studies: nonclassical systems of logic developed by Brazilian mathematicians, nonbinary models of computation by Indian scientists, socialist frameworks of informatics by Cuban librarians and scientists, and efforts to formalize poetic language and translation by Czech linguists and engineers. In each of these cases, I show how the development of abstract mathematical ideas can be reshaped by broader cultural and political phenomena, such as Brazilian modernism, Indian independence, the Cuban Revolution, and the Prague Spring. My aim is to demonstrate that computational rationality is open to radically distinct alternatives

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